The U.S. government is making sure you can't quietly cruise through the neighborhood in a hybrid anymore.
Future hybrids and EVs might not be nearly as stealthy in the United States because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could soon require that they make an audible alert at speeds below 19 miles per hour (30 kilometres per hour). NHTSA estimates the rule could prevent 2,400 pedestrian injuries a year.
"This is a common-sense tool to help pedestrians — especially folks who are blind or have low vision — make their way safely," NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind said when announcing the new regulation.
According to the new rule, electrified vehicles would produce a minimum tone of 47 to 50 decibels with the power on when stationary. In reverse, the sound would increase to 50 to 53 decibels. When driving forward up to six mph (10 km/h), the volume would grow to 53-56 decibels. Then the noise would increase to 59 to 62 decibels at 12 mph (20 km/h) and 63 to 67 decibels at 19 mph (30 km/h). For reference, a normal conversation is between 50 and 60 decibels.
NHTSA estimates a cumulative cost to the auto industry of $39 million USD a year for installing waterproof external speakers for creating these sounds, according to Reuters. However, the parts could mean $250 million to $320 million USD a year in lower medical costs from fewer people being hit by the cars.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers lobbying group worked with NHTSA on creating the rules. The group seems cautiously optimistic about the results. “We’re still reviewing this final rule, however we already know that it’s important that automakers have the flexibility to equip vehicles with sounds that are sufficiently detectable yet pleasant to hear. Consumer acceptance is critical and that hinges on sounds not annoying people inside the auto,” it said in a statement.
If accepted, at least half of all new hybrids and EVs for sale in the U.S must have this equipment by September 1, 2018, and all of them would require it by September 1, 2019. Motorcycles and heavy-duty vehicles with a gross weight rating of 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) or more would be exempt from this regulation.
Groups that support blind people praised the new rule for improving the safety for those with poor sight. “This regulation will ensure that blind Americans can continue to travel safely and independently as we work, learn, shop, and engage in all facets of community life," Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said during NHTSA’s announcement.
NHTSA has been hammering out this regulation since Congress passed The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010. However, the rules aren’t quite final yet. According to Reuters, Donald Trump’s administration could order an additional review of the regulation once it takes power.
Source: NHTSA, Reuters, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers